Mitt Romney on Saturday said the Obama campaign's lawsuit in Ohio to limit military voters to the same early voting dates as non-military voters was an "outrage."
"President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period is an outrage," he said in a statement posted to Facebook Saturday afternoon. "The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote. I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I'm entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I'll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them."
Earlier this week the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a lawsuit to block a new Ohio state law allowing men and women in uniform to vote up until the Monday right before an election, while the cutoff on early voting for the rest of the public is three days earlier.
Ohio Republicans pushed through a law that shortened the state's early-voting period. The Obama campaign had effectively used expanded early voting periods in 2008 to dramatically increase turnout with young voters and minorities, and in a number of states where the GOP controls the statehouse there has been a push to roll back those laws.
Obama's campaign says the lawsuit is not designed to limit military voters' rights, but rather to expand that period to all Ohio voters.
The optics of the issue could be a problem for the president’s campaign, though. The National Guard Association and other military groups have fired back against the lawsuit, asking the Ohio judge overseeing the case to be able to join the state in defending the law. Service members typically get more time than others to send in absentee ballots since they may be serving in an overseas or domestic location that is not close to their home polling station.
Voting rights cases have become a hot issue this election. A number of Republican-controlled swing states including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida have passed laws to require photo identification.
Democrats say those laws are designed to target young voters and minorities who statistically are much more likely to lack that identification. Republicans have said the laws are necessary because of voter fraud, though there has been little evidence that voter fraud is widespread in the United States. Many of those laws are being challenged in the courts.
Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed to challenge efforts he says are restricting voter rights. Last month, at the NAACP convention in Houston, Texas, he blasted voter ID measures as similar to “poll taxes” and vowed to aggressively challenge them in courts.
Proponents of heightened voter verification laws gained a victory last month, though, when the Obama administration agreed to let Florida use a national law database to purge residents suspected of not being U.S. citizens from their voter rolls.
The administration had blocked Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) request to use the database for months, but the decision to grant Florida access was spurred by a court decision in another voting-rights case in favor of the state.